I watched the foreign film Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink), a Belgian film by filmmaker Alain Berliner. This movie is almost a double choice in not only that it deals with foreign culture, but psychology within itself. It is a warm, startling, funny, and realistic study of what happens when a seven-year-old boy is convinced, beyond all reason and outward evidence to the contrary, that he is really a girl. His certitude is astonishing in one so little, and his gender conviction is so strong that his belief can’t be laughed away as the result of a “phase” or an “active imagination.” Yet the crux of Ma Vie en Rose is not a study of trans-gendered children per se, despite the fact that such sensational subject matter would seem to be surefire material for attention-grabbing moviemaking. You’re never even quite certain about the long-term psychological ramifications of young Ludovic’s obsession: Is he trans-gendered, a transvestite, gay, or straight? Such determinations are not the movie’s concern. What Ma Vie en Rose is interested in is what it means to be a “difficult” child, a child who whose difference always sets him apart, and what it means to be the parents of such a child. Here we see some cultural differences with the characters.
Ludovic’s parents, Hanna and Pierre, are amazingly tolerant of their seven-year-old’s irresistible desire to dress in skirts, even though they try to reason with him to behave otherwise. Though there were moments when the child’s parents about lost it, they were amazingly tolerable to his desires and still managed to keep that family unity, something I am not so sure would go over well in an American setting where boys play baseball and girls play dress up. However, noting the obvious differences, the film does share similarities that we might overlook. The film takes place in Belgium, where the “geographically-challenged” individual might think of tiny country villages, on the contrary however; the viewer finds that the suburbia that creates the story is remarkably similar to the American counterpart. Let us not forget the characters too. I noticed that during the subtitled film that you could basically figure out what the characters were saying just by their tone. Much of the conversations and speeches were similar, if not exact, to American cultured speech minus the English tongue.
When Ludovic starts spinning elaborate and fantastic stories about how he really is a girl and how he wants to marry his playmate Jerome when he grows up, his actions begin to generate more serious adult concern. It doesn’t help matters that Jerome’s father is also Pierre’s boss, thus after the two boys are discovered in the midst of a mock wedding ceremony, all hell starts to break loose. Since the boss is a blustering bigot, this is not a good idea. Indeed, most of the adults in the movie seem like members of the Gender Role Enforcement Police. Ludovic and his family therefore become the neighborhood outcasts, Ludovic is drummed out of school, and Pierre loses his job. Despite these dire and downbeat consequences, Ma Vie en Rose manages to maintain a remarkably spunky and upbeat attitude, probably in large measure because it stays focused on the child’s point of view throughout. And Ludovic, himself, is never in doubt even though he watches as everyone else around him becomes unhinged. The film also has candy-colored flights of sheer fancy as you witness Ludovic’s fantasies about a Barbie-like doll named Pam, who floats over the community and serves as his guiding light. Overall I thought the movie was quite a masterpiece conveying all forms of emotion. I think this was quite an interesting psychological journey into the mind of this young Belgian boy. The movie was well written and acted by the cast, and is recommended for the diversity-seeking viewer. However, there were parts that I thought could have been improved.
It seemed that throughout the movie there was a high point and a low point on the roller coaster of emotions stemmed from Ludovic’s gender bending. At some points I just got tired of dealing with the emotions that flew out to the viewer. The parents especially being under subject, one parent would accept Ludovic and the other would be off in a tyrant of shame…but not short after the roles would switch and he would be thrown against the other parent. I also do not like the persecution that Ludovic had to face as a result of his tastes and self. Unfortunately we live in an environment that allows “Tom-boys”, but not the counterpart. There is no social stigma attached to a young girl who dresses like a boy, plays rough, wears Band-Aids on her skinned knees like badges of honor, and prefers trading baseball cards to jumping rope. It’s regarded as “just part of growing up.” Reverse the situation, however. The result — a boy who adopts the traits of a girl — is unacceptable. Such a child, who plays with dolls, puts on makeup, and wears dresses, is likely to become a pariah. And that is the situation explored by Alain Berliner in this film
This brings out emotions in the viewer from people shunning and hurting this family because of a boy, one single little boy. At Part social realism, part human comedy, part family drama, and part storybook fantasy, Ma Vie en Rose is an original, thought-provoking, and entertaining piece of work that I am glad I got to experience as part of this class.